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Speaker Review Thread

1376 Views 1 Reply 1 Participant Last post by  seagul
I'm always looking for speaker reviews and thought I would start a thread where people could post reviews. I don't know if this will catch on but it's worth a try.
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Warning: I’m long winded

Equipment: I don’t have amazing equipment but I feel that it represents the common mans system.

Receiver: Harman Kardon AVR 247
CD Player: Oppo 980
Amp: Emotiva UPA-2

Intro: First of all know that I am not a fan boy of any company I just look for what sounds good. With that said a little background info. Over the last year I’ve been on a search for that speaker that really calls to me in the $800 to $1500 range. I’ve gone through many speakers; most of the big brands, but the two I review below are the ones that for me really seem to click. I wish I had kept my Sierra 1’s a little longer because those were great too. I hope you enjoy my review and I hope this helps someone in the future because that’s why I am writing this.

Price and Value: I have yet to encounter a speaker that competes with speakers twice its price; however, I do think that these speakers are both good values in their price range. Not necessarily their listed price range but what you can actually get them for.
Rocket-450 The Rockets list for $899 but for about the last year have been set on $799 or cheaper, but count on paying $100 for shipping and another $100 for stands. The extras add up.
Kef XQ-10’s retail for $1500. Now I didn’t get them for that and such a price would put them into a more competitive price range that wouldn’t make them such a value. I got them for $700 from a dealer who was going out of business, but I see them online in all three colors for $1000 with shipping. Personally I think the $1000 dollar range is about right.

Packaging and Unpacking: If you are concerned about packaging with either of these speakers you shouldn’t be. Both come very protected. The Kef’s were completely surrounded in 2” foam. They were easy to pull out and came with speaker legs, a rubber mat which can be used instead of the legs, port plugs, and instructions. The Rockets were not completely wrapped in foam but had three foam cut outs which they fit in. They were also double boxed. Pulling them out is tuff because they fit tight and they are heavy. Included are instructions, spikes, and the speakers are covered with giant sock.

Listening: Ok here we go. Just so you have an idea of my room its small, square, carpeted, 10’ ceilings,no room treatments, and I have my subs turned off.

Rockets: Now I should tell you I am very familiar with these speakers. I have lived with them for three years. Last year I tried to find a replacement speaker I liked better and couldn’t do it. Partly because I am so anal, one little thing bugs me to no end and it won’t work out. The Rockets are not the best at anything, but they are great at just about everything, probably why I like them so much. The sound is neutral just hedging on laid back. These are speakers that you can listen to for hours. Very forgiving speakers.

Music: 1st song: Wynton Marsalis-Embraceable You

I use this CD to see how much of an atmosphere a speaker provides. Its live in a Jazz club. The Rockets do a good job but if I close my eyes im not in the club, they just don’t have that airy feeling. They do a good job with separation of instruments. I can tell some depth with the Trumpet in the foreground and the bass and drums in the background. The instruments are believable but in real life the trumpet would be a bit sharper up top. Overall everything is just really well balanced.

Master and Commander Soundtrack-Song 3 Violin Concerto and Song 4 The Cuckold Comes Out

Excellent separation of instruments in the first song. Violins sound realistic but like the trumpets they don’t have that upper end bite. This doesn’t mean they don’t have excellent highs they do. Song two does better than song one. I think it’s because of the bongos which are so well separated that they almost sound like they are in a different part of the room. You can see the hand hit the drum. I notice that these things love to play loud. The higher I turn up the volume the better they sound. The bass is really impressive for speakers of this size, and more impressive is the speed and sq of the bass.

Eagles Hell Freezes Over-Hotel California.

The Rockets can hold their own on classical and jazz but they really have the soul of a Rocker. Instantly I fall in love with this song being played on these speakers. I almost want to stop writing, almost. I have to think to myself this has to be how this song was supposed to sound. The drums are felt, the guitars distinguished, and the vocals engaging, and lordy lordy the bass guitar is there too. I really notice how crisp the cymbals are throughout the song and the voicing sounds just right. I do love that about the Rockets they do vocals justice. I don’t know how what else to say other than the song is just immensely engaging on these speakers.

Movies: The Incredible’s: 100 mile dash

Ok now it's time to level the playing field. As mentioned before the Rockets can definitely hold their own with music but its with movies that they excel. In fact movies are what make me love them so much. Their balance seems to just pull you in. Unlike the Kef’s impacts are felt. Little details are always being noticed. Most of all the vocals are engaging enough make your hair stand on end at times.

Lord of the Rings Return of the King Special Edition: The Deep Breath Before the Plunge:

This scene does have some alright bass but I mostly use it for vocals. If you haven’t noticed I place great importance on vocals. That’s probably because vocals are what have sent more speakers back home for me. I really wanted to like the Studio 40’s but the vocals drove me nuts. Same with the Axiom M 60’s. With the Rockets Gandoff’s voice cuts through the air like a knife bringing me more into the scene. Some speakers do a great job producing sound but don’t create feeling. This is not the case here. Perhaps the best thing I can say on this scene is that when they talk I feel like they are in my room. It can be creepy at times. Maybe that’s just me.

Kef XQ10’s: 1st song: Wynton Marsalis-Embraceable You

When I switched from the Rockets to the Kef’s my first thought was WOW now I feel like im sitting in the dance club. They have that airy feeling that gives great atmosphere. They really involve me in the song on this one. With that said they are good enough to give aspects of bad recordings so they can pull you out of the song as fast as they put you in if the CD isn’t up to the task. This one luckily is. The trumpet has the right amount of bite to it but at first I have trouble locating the bass. After turning my receiver’s bass up to 6 I find it and the sound is more balanced without noticing the loss of anything. I seem able to really locate the positions of different instruments, something I am rarely able to do on this song. If the Rockets are smooth than the Kefs are quick and detailed.

Master and Commander Soundtrack-Song 3 Violin Concerto and Song 4 The Cuckold Comes Out-

I love these two songs. The first begins and again I feel as though I am in the room. The violins sound just the way I think they should. 31 seconds into the song and the violin hits a high note that makes the hair on my arm rise. It happens again 8 seconds later. On song two a bongo is used and the Kefs portray it the most realistically I have heard to date. The separation between the instruments is excellent. On these songs I think the speakers do go into the bright side of neutral. The detail is great but I don’t think I could listen to them for a couple hours. Probably the most impressive part of this song on the Kef’s was on the Violin Concerto. At the very start I can hear the person who plays the song moving before he strikes a note. I have never heard this so clearly before.

Eagles Hell Freezes Over-Hotel California.

Its all about the intro on this song. Instantly I notice how crisp the guitar and cymbals sound. I think the drums are faster than the rockets but they don’t sound quite right, almost like they are too fast. Like the Rockets, the vocals sound just right but I notice the backup singers more than before, in a good way. The song takes up more space with the Kef’s but lacks the impact of the Rockets, I am missing that extra driver. That would change with a sub of course.

Movies: The Incredible’s: 100 mile dash

The first thing I notice, again, is how detailed these speakers are. You can hear the sound of Dash’s feet hitting the ground in parts when he runs and that’s a really neat effect. Impacts lack substance and the bass leaves you wanting pretty often but again that would change with a sub. What doesn’t leaving you wanting is the sense of surrounding you get from the little details that are picked up, leaves moving, sounds of water, ect. I would describe the strengths of the Kef XQ10 in critical listening with music. They do very good with movies but a sub is a must have. When I turn mine on it’s a whole new ballgame.

Lord of the Rings Return of the King Special Edition: The Deep Breath Before the Plunge:

These are one of the few speakers I have owned that do vocals almost as well as the Rockets. The thunder in the background is a really cool effect, and this is the best I have heard it. Sounds are crisp and accurate, but somehow I am not in the scene standing by Gandoff like I am with the Rockets. The Kefs are more revealing of details at lower volumes than the Rockets are, and if you live in an apartment like I am about to this is a good thing. On the downside when you push them to really loud volumes, where it becomes uncomfortable for me, they start to strain.


XQ10’s- I auditioned the Kef’s because it seemed that though people respected the brand no one really knew much about them. In this price range I definitely think they are a contender that should be considered with the Paradigm studio’s, Ascend Sierra’s exc,ect. It comes to me that I forgot to mention how amazing the birds eye maple looks on the Kef’s with the gloss. By far the best finish I have had to date. If you like critical listing with jazz and classical than I think that you would be hard pressed to do better. I wish I still had my Sierra 1’s because it would be a hell of a showdown. These speakers certainly play larger than their size. The off axis is just incredible, but the bass without a sub leaves you wanting for more, so a sub is a must. For this reason I think I am going to go up to the XQ20’s for $1100 shipped and move the 10’s to surround. Oh if you want to know how good these are I am keeping them. They make me smile.

Rockets- What more can I say other than I have kept these for three years with upgradeitus and have been happy with them. The veneer is beautiful, and the build quality is sound, I’ve taken them apart I know. I mentioned earlier in the review that they are not the best at anything but are great at everything and that’s true. This really works in your favor if little characterizations drive you crazy. Now if your looking for a speaker for critical listening than I wouldn’t choose the Rockets. They do well with music but it’s not where they shine. Now if you’re looking for speakers for movies than look no farther. In their price range they are the best I have heard.

I hope my review has helped. I am not saying that either of these speakers are the best. I don’t believe such a thing exists. My equipment and room can change the sound greatly. I do believe from my experience that these are two well rounded and solid speakers that will put a smile on your face.

I posted some pics of the speakers. If you will notice there is a third in a couple of pics. That’s an x-ls that I use as a surround. I placed it in for size reference.

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